LUCASVILLE — Valley’s plan of attack heading into Tuesday went right out of the window less than two hours before its game.
Starting point guard Colt Buckle was forced to miss the game, so the Indians were forced to play out of system and simply figure it out.
However, as all great teams do, Valley adjusted on the fly and made the most of an adversity-filled situation.
The end result? A 57-50 victory over Piketon in non-conference action, allowing the Indians to remain undefeated and move to 9-0.
“This was a definitely a battle for 32 minutes. It makes things a little difficult not having our point guard, but I think this is also a testament to the kids and how they stepped up,” Valley coach Craig Tackett said. “We ran spots they typically don’t run, even in practice and there was definitely a learning curve, but they have such great team chemistry and trust one another to figure things out.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect between the players and the coaches on this team,” Tackett added about the team’s 9-0 start. “That, and unselfishness. These kids don’t care what it takes to win. They’re excited for one another and, as long as the team does well, that’s what they care about.”
With a key piece missing from the rotation, it naturally took some time to find a rhythm. But Valley’s advantage was that it had George Arnett and Jace Copley on its side.
The duo stayed aggressive throughout the night, putting up shots from all distances while creating opportunities for their teammates to get shots off.
Copley ran the show in the second half, finishing with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Arnett was the go-to guy down the stretch to close the game, ending with a season-best 26 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“Everything is a team effort, and we’re also a team of momentum,” Arnett said. “Whenever one guy has the hot hand, we feed him and then other guys step up around him. It can be anyone’s night and I think that’s part of what makes us dangerous.”
“We’ve played our whole lives together, and we’ve reached the point where we don’t care who scores the ball,” Copley said. “It’s just about getting guys the ball and knowing they’ll make plays. Tonight was a little different with all of us out of places, but Levi [Stewart] and Tucker [Merritt] did a great job of playing their roles and giving us huge minutes.”
Tale of the tape
Though the duo of Copley and Arnett were the story of the game, in the first half, it was all about Piketon’s Tra Swayne.
Playing with the aggression of a bull in a China shop, he was smart about his shot selection and patient within the offense to establish a rhythm early.
He opened with eight of the Redstreaks’ first 12 points before Brent McGuire drilled a corner triple off an assist from Levi Gullion to put them ahead 15-13 after the first.
Swayne continued on the attack, connecting from distance and driving to the basket for a shot or getting fouled. He was a one-man wrecking crew and the Indians had no answer for him. He scored 16 of Piketon’s 24 first-half points and kept his team afloat as it trailed just 26-24 at halftime.
“[Piketon] Coach [Kyle] Miller deserves a lot of credit. They controlled the tempo for the first half and made us play at their pace,” Tackett said. “They worked the ball around, and Tra played one heck of a game. We managed to slow him down in the second half, but he got everything he wanted early.”
Despite Valley having troubles on both sides of the ball, the fact it was ahead at the break felt like a huge win. However, the Indians finally began to click on all cylinders in the third and were off to the races.
While holding a one-possession lead, Arnett connected on a pair of buckets and Copley caressed nylon from deep before Bryce Stuart got a steal and finished with a two-handed jam on the other end, capping a 10-2 run to put the Indians ahead 44-34 heading to the fourth.
Though momentum was on Valley’s side, the Redstreaks continued to hang around as Swayne and Kydan Potts led the way.
However, for every bucket they got, Arnett matched on the other end as he kept the Indians at arm’s length throughout the final frame before closing out the win.
“About halfway through the third quarter, that’s when the shift happened and we started to take control of the game,” Tackett said. “I don’t know if it was conditioning or what, but we finally started to run and create a couple turnovers to put us ahead.”
Following Arnett and Copley, Bryce Stuart finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, while Stewart had four points and 12 rebounds.
Swayne finished with 22 points and nine boards, followed by Potts and McGuire each with 12 points.
What’s on tap
Valley returns to action on Tuesday in SOC II play at Oak Hill, while Piketon faces off against Minford on Thursday in the SOCS Classic at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium.